Monday, 29 May 2023

Half a trillion

 Half a trillion

 The Labour party claimed that more than half a trillion working days had been lost to sickness since the last General Election. 

Don't our politicians have any common sense? Any sense of scale? Half a trillion is 500,000,000,000. This is another Diane Abbott style of mistake. It seems that to our politicians, all numbers are equal.

There are 33 million workers in the UK. So that works out at 15,150 days lost per worker. But in the 3.5 years since December 1019, there were only 875 or so working days. So, somehow, each British worker managed to claim seventeen days off sick into every working day. Absurd!

I own a calculator, it's 36 years old. But even without a calculator, I could see that the figure they were citing was impossible.

So then they issued a correction.  Not half a trillion; they meant to say half a billion. 

It's Diane Abbott again.  All numbers are equally valid, and it doesn't matter if you confuse billions with trillions. And none of the people checking that initial press release, could see that the claim was absurd.

And these are the people who think they can run the UK economy?

Saturday, 27 May 2023

Grandson.4 has arrived

Grandson.4 has arrived

On 26 May, daughter.2 produced grandson.4. Welcome to the family!

Wednesday, 24 May 2023



There's been a lot of talk about illegal immigration into the UK, especially those crossing the channel in small boats.

This, of course, makes me wonder. Why are they vigorously waving this bright red flag. Is there something they're trying to distract me from?

So I looked at some numbers. Year ending June 2022, the total long term immigration to the UK was 1064 thousand. In the year ending June 2020, it was 711 thousand.

 The number of EU nationals has fallen from 312 thousand to 224 thousand. The number of British immigrating has risen from 90 to 135. The number of non-EU has risen from 309 to 704 thousand.

In other words, immigration has risen by 50%; immigration from non-EU by 128%

Illegals? 52 thousand in 2022. Cross channel in 2022? 46 thousand. Death by drowning in 2022? That's five. Not five thousand. Five.

So, the furore about cross channel illegal immigration does look like an attempt to distract from the huge rise in legal immigration from non-EU sources.

And where are they coming from? India, Poland, Pakistan are the top three.

We were promised by the Tories, a few years ago, that they would bring net migration down below 100,000 (2017 Tory manifesto, Theresa May). It is now 500,000. I think that they are trying to cover up their failure to reduce legal migration, by getting people steamed up about channel crossings, which are a tiny part of migration. It's the old "Look! A squirrel!" strategy.

Personally, I'm in favour of more people coming to the UK. My own grandparents were immigrants, from what is now Poland. We're short of young people in our labour force.

But I'm very much against this "Look! A squirrel!" strategy for covering up the failure of Tory policy.

Sunday, 21 May 2023

AI - threat and regulation

AI - threat and regulation

Is AI a threat? And should it be regulated?

AI is the same threat as spreadsheets and word processors. The threat is to all those people who made a living doing paper spreadsheets (I used to be one) and typewriters (I used to use a typewriter). It's obvious to me, and I suppose to everyone else, that a person with a spreadsheet can do a lot more work than one that just uses paper. As a result, fewer people are needed in that role.

It's just like hand looms and powered looms. One person can make a lot more cloth using a power loom. And so, unemployment threatens the hand weavers, typists and paper spreadsheet users.

What you need to understand, is that an AI system isn't some sort of arcane magic. It's just a program, written by a team of programmers. It makes about as much sense to see this as a threat, as it does to see antivirus software or word processors as a threat.

So should it be regulated? I don't think so, any more than database software should be regulated. Certainly these programs should be reviewed and rated by independent reviewers. But I doubt if there are any useful plans to do this - my experience with reviews of antivirus programs is that almost no-one has the competence, understanding and experience to do this.

It's the same with AI systems. A lot of people are churning out a lot of verbiage about them; useful reviews are rare.


Was this blog written by a human, or by a computer?

And why would that matter?

Note. This blog was written by a human, but I used a computer to write it, using Google's blogger software. There's a spell checker that flags my spelling typos so I can easily spot and correct them.


Was this blog written by a human, or by a computer?




Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Ding dong Dell

 Ding dong Dell

 I tried to buy a refurbished laptop from Dell, a model 3571,  because I need to do some CAD, so I need something portable with a good graphics chip. They had one for £1108, and also gave me a code for a 12% discount. But when I used their web site to order it, I just went round and round in circles, and the second time I tried to buy it, it had gone. So I tried to buy another one for £1148. Their web site gave me the same runaround. So we tried it from a phone, which seemed to work, but there was no page or email acknowledging the purchase, and when I called the credit card company, they said that there had been no activity on the card.

Using their chat function wasn't helpful, they told me to phone a number 01344 373 727. That number also took me on a tour of Dell people who couldn't help. Also 0800 587 0420 was no use at all.

I felt like they didn't really want to sell me a computer. So, I told them that since I couldn't buy their computer from them, I'm going elsewhere. I don't think they cared.

So I went to Europc, and bought a 3571 from them. It cost £1370, which is £220 more, but that got me an i9 processor instead of the i5, and an A1000 video instead of the T600.

The moral of this story is that if your web site gives purchasers a hard time, and your sales people are unable to help, then you wn't sell as many computers as you could.

Friday, 28 April 2023

Fixing the Hanns-G

 Fixing the Hanns-G

 In Server Room 1, I have a Raspberry Pi 4, which I use as a general purpose terminal. The screen is a beautiful 27 inch monitor, 2560 by 1440 pixels, which means I can have several terminals running at once. I got it second hand on eBay for a very low cost.

A couple of days ago, I powered it on, and nothing happened. Then I noticed that one of the breakers had tripped, so I reset it ... still nothing. And there was no little green light on the power brick. When I tested it, it was dead, and that explained everything. The power brick had shorted, and tripped the breaker.

So I needed a new Hanns-G power brick. I went onto eBay and ... nothing. This thing was just too old and unusual for spare parts to exist. But the old brick told me that it wanted 19 volts, 3 amps. So I went back to eBay, and bought a generic power brick, 19 volts and 3 amps, for £11. 

It arrived today. The unit didn't have the output voltage engraved on it, but I checked with a voltmeter, and it was indeed 19 volts. But the plug to the monitor was the wrong size. Nothing is ever easy.

Never mind - I had one that was the right size. I cut the lead off the old power supply and spliced it onto the new one, plugged it into the monitor and it immediately came to life!

A replacement second hand monitor would have cost about £60

Meanwhile, Server Room 2 is starting to take shape.

Thursday, 30 March 2023

Caching again

Caching again

Everything was ready.

I have three working Mio Digiwalkers. One I use as a TomTom satnav, one with MemoryMap and the third one is a spare. Actually, all three of them can do either TomTom or MemoryMap.

The bike is fettled and ready to go. Brakes, tyres, batteries and panniers, and a very nice holder for the Mio. I have a substantial bike helmet (actually it's a skateboard helmet) and leather gloves. For lighting, I have a powerful headlight that also shows a red light behind my head, so if it gets dark, I'm still visible.

I had solved several puzzles and multis, and the Mio was loaded up with all the info.

So, first I went to pick up a cache near Shardeloes. I'd worked out the coordinates, verified with Geochecker. I had failed with this one before - and I failed again. Not a good start to the day.

Then I drove to the local clinic, parked there and walked to another cache, which I did find. Better!

Then I drove (still with the bike) to Raans Lane, to pick up a Church Micro that I had solved. Parking was easy; there was a restriction of no parking from 11am to 1pm (which stops commuters from using it), but it was 4pm so I was safe to park there. I grabbed the cache, and then unloaded the bike.

To do that, I put the wooden ramp in place, undid the straps holding the bike in place, and wheeled it down the ramp. I connected up the batteries, and I was ready to roll.

Riding a bike is a bit like flying! Instead of plodding from cache to cache, the bike whisked me around in no time, which was a great saving on my energy. And, of course, parking wasn't a problem, you can leave a bike anywhere. Touring round Amersham, I picked up nine more caches, and had one DNF (but the cache owner said that it was gone, and since I'd looked in the right place, I could log it as found). So, altogether I logged eleven finds.

That's small beer compared with what I used to get in a day's outing, but given my current state of unfitness, it was very good.

After the last one, I made straight for Raans Lane, back to the car. Wheeling the bike up the ramp to the bike carrier was no problem. I strapped it on firmly and drove home.

I was really exhausted, but I still had to get the bike off the carrier (no problem) and put the batteries on charge. 

One of the Mios had persistently claimed that it had "very low battery" so I went on to eBay and ordered a new battery for it. I know they're easy to fit.

I also have two Looxes that work well; they have the advantage of using a better screen than the Mio (640 by 480 instead of 320 by 240) and a bigger memory card (16gb instead of 4gb). And those 4gb cards (which mustn't be HC) are hard to find these days, although I have found a source at £20 per card.

Another thing that I have now that I didn't have before, is an iPhone. Before I had a very ordinary Nokia phone, which could make phone calls and (just about) do texts. The iPhone can also run the geocaching app, or MemoryMap, and has a HUGE memory for maps. But it's a lot heavier. I carry it as a "just-in-case" but it's not as good for caching as the Mio. But the iPhone is good for "Adventure caches".

By the way, you can still buy second hand Mios for £23. The 4gb card is £20, a new battery is £11, and I think that gives you the best geocaching handheld that you can buy today.